I’ve worked in the corporate world now for my entire adult life—over 20 years and counting.
But it wasn’t until I started down my spiritual path that something became clear to me: the corporate environment, with its often frantic pace, calculating strategy, and drive to move forward at all costs was at odds with my innate, sensitive nature to be thoughtful, observant, and consider the feelings, desires, and underlying motivations of all people.
In short, I’m energetically sensitive and the corporate world can be pretty harsh for people like me.
And I know I’m not alone.
One of the greatest struggles for us sensitive types is that we feel everything. It’s not just that we pick up on someone else’s true feelings, which can be a cool gift sometimes—don’t lie to us, because we’ll know! The real challenge is that we often feel everyone’s energies all at once, which can be overwhelming to say the least.
We can usually mitigate this by avoiding crowds or places where we know the energy is difficult for us. But then there’s the issue of work.
Obviously, work is necessary in order to eat, pay bills, and meet our basic needs. For the lucky ones among us, we figure out early on how to make a living in an environment that’s friendly to sensitive people, which often means alone, or with a small number of people whose energy we know and trust. For so many of us, however, we don’t figure out this sensitive blessing/curse for many years, and by the time we do, we’re already trying to fit into the mold of the modern workplace. This is where many of us struggle and ultimately start to question ourselves.
You see, it’s enough of a challenge to pick up on everyone’s energy all the time. In the workplace, this is amplified to ever greater proportions because we can’t escape if it gets overwhelming.
We don’t have the option to say to our boss, “I’m picking up too many energies and it’s draining me. I need to go home, clear myself, and be alone.” We’d lose our jobs. So we stay and get the work done, often to our own detriment.
In addition, there is often so much chaos, stress, and negativity at work.
Organizational change is the norm and businesses seem to move at the speed of light. People in an organization have their own personal agendas and most don’t openly share their true feelings about situations, but rather radiate silent negativity to everyone around them. This is like kryptonite for a sensitive person.
In our personal lives, we might avoid a person or situation like this. But when we’re paid to do a job, we can’t escape it.
And then there’s the constant dismissal. Though we may pick up on the subtle energies happening in a meeting, for example—not only of the various emotions from the people in the room, but also the deeper meaning behind them—no one else does. So, when we do share our thoughts, we’re often overruled by the majority.
It doesn’t help that we can come off as quiet and introspective, even passive, especially if we’ve been trying to navigate the corporate waters for many years, unaware of our sensitive status. The repeated questioning of what we know deep inside ultimately starts to make us question ourselves as competent professionals. We eventually start to think, “If everyone else thinks I’m wrong, maybe I really am.”
I suspect that these issues are the basis of a great deal of the feelings of unworthiness that we tend to experience.
You see, even if we had a boss who would let us go home and cleanse, or if we could avoid those people in the workplace who fling their negativity around like a dog shaking off water, many of us don’t truly know what’s really going on with us. We don’t know we’re picking up and absorbing energy from other people.
We just know that we’re struggling in this environment, like we’ve struggled in all the other places we worked.
And we can only go so long having our insights dismissed and questioning our ability to fit into the workplace before we start to internalize the idea that maybe the problem is some kind of inherent defect within us.
Of course the problem isn’t us—at least not who we are fundamentally as people. It’s our lack of understanding of who we are and how to navigate authentically in a workplace that doesn’t understand the raw value that we bring.
Let’s face it, no one is advertising a job with “sensitive” in the qualifications. So what’s the solution for sensitives in the workplace?
Well, many of us do need to work in modern corporate workplaces. As nice as it might be to pursue a more sensitive-friendly environment, we can’t just pack up and leave because we have responsibilities and obligations.
However, all is not lost. We can succeed in the workplace; we just have to shift our definition of success and adopt some supportive practices.
Unless we’re in charge of setting corporate strategy, our employers are unlikely to allow us to redefine what success looks like within the organization. However, we can define what success looks like for ourselves.
It’s likely we’ve been working toward an external definition of success all along, perhaps focusing our efforts on the amount of money we earn, upward mobility in the organization, or even just being more outwardly driven and vocal. It’s important to take time to discern if what we’re aiming for is what we want or what we’re told we’re supposed to want.
It’s an important distinction. Do some serious meditation on this question. Be really honest and open and see what comes up.
It’s also helpful to know ourselves better. We can complete a personality assessment, learn about strengths, and especially learn more about what it means to be sensitive. Then we can spend time considering how to shift our workplace behavior to better support our innate qualities.
For example, if we discover we’re introverted (not meaning that we’re shy, but rather that we need time alone to re-charge our personal energy) we can explore ways to contribute and be heard within the organizational culture without having to fight against our natural (quieter) tendencies. Perhaps we can ask for more time to consider new proposals. Or ask for a meeting agenda ahead of time in order to be more prepared. Perhaps working with people one-on-one rather than trying to sway a whole room is a better approach.
Also, as we consider future roles, we can be sure to analyze if our strengths and personality are a good fit. Just because it’s a promotion doesn’t mean that it’s the best move for us as individuals.
Learn to deal with people.
The many strong personalities in the workplace can be overwhelming for sensitives, especially coupled with all the strong emotions.
When we start to appreciate the strength and directness around us, rather than be intimidated by it, we empower ourselves to be more direct and assertive as well. And if we practice assertiveness with strong people, we then build our muscles for dealing with more difficult people. Being assertive also keeps us from feeling constantly dismissed because we’re getting our own opinions and feelings on the table.
Keep in mind that being sensitive does not make us a victim of passivity. Many of us end up acting passively in certain situations because we’re either not sure how to handle energetically charged situations or we’re so used to having our feelings dismissed that we’re not sure how to respond anymore. But we can overcome this with practice.
We can also preemptively address situations by using our perception skills in our favor. For example, if we’re preparing for a meeting, we can anticipate the emotional situation by feeling into our knowledge of the invitees. What is their normal energy? What energy signals are we picking up from them since we invited them? What other players are invited, and how are they adding to the energy feeling, or creating a new energy pattern?
We can base this both on our ability to genuinely feel the energy of people and on our assumptions and past experiences. We won’t always be 100 percent right, however the goal is to dispel any negativity or misunderstandings early in the process since that kind of energy is painful for us and keeps us from being our best.
Create strong boundaries.
Last but definitely not least (in fact, this is the most important step), we must work on our boundaries.
Creating strong and healthy energetic boundaries is crucial to surviving in any environment that isn’t a sterile bubble, which literally exists nowhere. It doesn’t mean we become reclusive, withdrawn, and avoid difficult people. On the contrary, it’s an intentional daily practice in learning to recognize the difference between our own feelings and the feelings of others.
We bolster our energetic boundaries so that we don’t keep absorbing outside energies. Instead, we keep our energy in our own personal bubble and we keep other people’s energy out. We still recognize other energies, but we don’t allow them to enter our bubble and affect us. And it couldn’t be simpler: we visualize a bubble around us.
For many of us, we’ve had weak boundaries for years, and while it’s been miserable in many ways, it’s also the devil we know. Being strong and safe means we’re left alone with just our own stuff, and that can be more intimidating than the status quo. However, the discomfort of having to deal with our own stuff far outweighs the long-term price we pay for feeling unfulfilled and unworthy of having something better.
Being who we are in the workplace as well as in our personal lives is a huge part of feeling like a whole and complete human being who is worthy of all the benefits of a fulfilling work environment.
We generally can’t change our organizational culture, but we can always change ourselves.
Are you energetically sensitive and struggling (or succeeding) in the corporate world? What tips do you have to share with others? Or what additional tools do you need to be your authentic best?
Author: Ashley Barnes
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis